Rethinking Volunteering?

At this year’s Museum Association conference, delegates were inspired to focus on ways in which volunteers do and might benefit from the time they contribute in museums and heritage organisations.

Whilst many museums essentially rely on volunteers to open their site to the public, the emphasis also needs to be firmly on the balance of mutual benefit where both the volunteer and the museum is gaining equally from the experience. Museums must address whether their volunteers able to do a different role if they wish, as well as whether new volunteers given time to try a variety of different activities before settling to their first experience with your museum.

Richard Gough from Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust wanted larger museums to consider how they might extend partnerships that they have already with community organisations and businesses to achieve significant tasks through team days, beyond the usual painting and environmental clearing.

Museums and heritage organisations must address what the corporate social responsibility priorities for companies in your area are, and whether they are fulfilling these priorities.

Organisations should look at what they could you offer and achieve through the national Give and Gain day organised by Business in the Community

The Imperial War Museum North partnered with seven other museums in the Manchester area to support the development of wellbeing for a range of people with complex needs as part of the Inspiring Futures project. Volunteers were trained for one day a week for ten weeks to undertake a six week placement. Many became more confident in their own abilities and some moved into work as a result.

Larger projects may be beyond the capacity of some museums at the moment, but they may consider offering a different type of volunteering activity. They could have people to volunteer to retweet or ‘like’ their social media posts, &  even regularly post a comment on Twitter on the museums behalf.  Museums could recruit and train a few families to offer comments on their museum visit from a family point of view. They could also learn about the experience of someone with special needs being supported by their carer to ‘meet and greet’ your visitors.

Understanding the feedback  from volunteers about their time in the museum and the exploring the opportunities for different people to be involved is certainly worth rethinking.


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